Without any further ado, a fabulous guest post from my good friend Warren:
“Always learning: Notes from a country schoolhouse” would be the name of my blog, if I had one. I don’t think I have enough time, or thoughts, to be able to have a regular blog though, so I thought I would hijack Amanda’s. Just for a trial run.
It is wintertime, and everyone seems to be drawn to “comfort foods.” Different people and different regions will have a unique definition of what this means. For me, things like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, chili and pastas. Generally speaking, not soup. I’m just not a soup person.
A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from work I decided to roast a chicken for dinner. I grabbed a nice sized bird, some bacon and a couple of sausages from the meat counter. (I decided to stuff the chicken with a sausage based stuffing and blanket it in bacon)
Anyway, after I got the chicken in the oven, and had the rice cooker ready to rock, I started to think maybe I should make soup out of the chicken carcass. Don’t ask me why. I’d only ever made soup once before. As I said, I’m just not a soup lover. I’m guessing it was that draw to “comfort food” having its affect on me.
The following afternoon on my way home for work I realized I needed carrots, onion and celery to start my soup. (Why exactly we use those three to make a base – mirepoix – I have no idea.) I knew I had onions at home, but likely not carrots and most definitely not celery. Realizing that I would never use an entire bunch of celery, even if it would last for a year in my fridge, I came up with an alternative way of getting what I needed. I went to the local Casey’s Grillhouse, had a beer and ordered a side of celery and carrots to go. Just 99 cents! Brilliant! I got just enough and wouldn’t have the leftovers rotting in the veggie drawer.
So as I was boiling down the carcass in one pot and starting my mirepoix in another, while also making dinner (I decided it was a two day event to make soup) my wife says “are you making dumplings too? I love dumplings”
My memories of dumplings as a kid would not fall into the “comfort food” category. My mother is a fabulous lady. Happy, generous and still pretty spry for close to 80, but she has never been a great cook. Dumplings as a kid were these lumpy doughy things that were likely meant to fill a person up, but really had no flavour or appeal.
And she wanted me to make dumplings?
Okay, why not. Most things I try come out better than they should, so it was worth a try. I found a recipe online that sounded okay, and got mostly good ratings.
This one single recipe has made me a fan of soups again and made dumplings one of my new favourite foods. They are soft, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth yumminess.
I used this Bobby Flay recipe on foodnetwork.com with some small tweaks.
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
Bring the milk and butter to a boil, add salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat and immediately add flour stirring until dough leaves the sides of the pan. Incorporate the eggs, 1 at a time, forming a sticky dough.
(I used large eggs and needed to add about 1/4 cup of extra flour, oh, and used garlic powder instead of nutmeg.)
Bring soup to a nice boil. Add spoon-sized balls of dough and simmer until dumplings rise.
I roasted a chicken again this week (this time stuffed with a head of garlic) just so I could make soup with dumplings again.
Ah, comfort food!